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Steely Dan

Steely Dan is a band whose core members are songwriters Walter Becker[?] and Donald Fagen[?]. In addition to Becker's bass and Fagen's vocals and keyboards, the band's arrangements have been filled out with a constantly varying assortment of session musicians. The band's heyday was in the seventies, when they released a half dozen consummate albums, which flirted variously with jazz, rock and roll, funk, pop, and everything in between. Characterized by complex structures, an easy sound, and unparalled musicianship, Steely Dan's albums are satisfying on many levels.

Musically, their sound is full of energy, though not an energy of aggression or speed. This comes partly from the tightness of the musicians. Becker and Fagen were known as perfectionists, and often listened to musician after musician and take after take before selecting the one to go on the album. It also comes partly from the structure of each song, which will often contain counter-melodies and solid rhythm to keep the listener interested. It also comes from the sound of each instrument. Each instrument is recorded in a way that appeals to the ear and mixed such that all are heard and none are given priority. For example, in the song "Parker's Band", two drum kits are used. This gives the song an unexpected drive, without overpowering the sound; it is not even immediately apparent.

Lyrically, the songs are about a wide range of topics, none mundane. The band have said that in retrospect, some albums have a feel of either New York or Los Angeles, places where Becker and Fagen lived and operated. Characters appear in their songs that evoke these cities. Themes of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll appear, but never in a straightforward manner, neither encouraging or discouraging. Other more intriguing themes are also present, such as prejudice, growing old, failure, and poverty. The lyrics are usually challenging and interesting, and can attract the mind's attention alongside with the music.

The band's name (like a number of others) is derived from the works of William S. Burroughs: Steely Dan is the name of a dildo that appeared in Naked Lunch[?]. Fagen once explained, "We just wanted to give the band a little more thrust than most other bands."


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